SHARE
COPY LINK

TOUR DE FRANCE 2014

Tour de France: Italian Nibali tightens grip

Italian Vincenzo Nibali won stage 18 of the Tour de France on Thursday to put him within touching distance of winning the overall race. By winning his fourth stage Nibali extended his lead over Frenchman Thibaut Pinot to more than seven minutes.

Tour de France: Italian Nibali tightens grip
Italian Vincenzo Nibali wins stage 18 to tighten grip on Tour de France title. Photo: AFP

Vincenzo Nibali confirmed his supremacy at the Tour de France with his fourth stage victory on Thursday.

The 29-year-old Italian won the 18th stage from Pau to the top of the Hautacam climb after 144.5km of mountainous terrain in the Pyrenees.

In doing so the Astana rider increased his overall lead to 7min 10sec ahead of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who was second on the stage at 1:10.

Pole Rafal Majka, the winner of two mountain stages, was third at 1:12 to secure victory in the King of the Mountains competition

Jean-Christophe Peraud made it two Frenchmen on the podium as he came home fourth at 1:15.

The 37-year-old is just 13sec behind Pinot and 2sec ahead of Alejandro Valverde, who had started the day second.

It means three riders are separated by just 15sec in the battle for second place, which should be decided on Saturday in the 54km time trial.

Although Pinot, 24, is second, he is widely regarded as the weakest of the three against the clock.

American Tejay Van Garderen came home fifth in the same time as Peraud to boost his chances of finishing in the top five overall.

He is sixth and trails 23-year-old Frenchman Romain Bardet by just over two minutes but the American is a far better timetriallist.

Yet Thursday's stage was all about Nibali's total domination as once again he gave a demonstration in the mountains

When he made his attack with 10km of climbing ahead he ate into loan leader  Mikel Nieve's advantage in no time and then simply rode away, gradually and steadily increasing the gap with every kilometre.

Preview: Thursday's unforgiving 144.5km stage 18 includes the behemoths of the Tourmalet and Hautacam mountains to climb, 

"Thursday will be a very hard day, especially after the last two days," said Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde the 34-year-old Movistar leader.

Meanwhile race leader Vincenzo Nibali even admitted he was riding within himself.

"My condition is very good and I'm ready to push right to the end but when I get to the end of a stage I'm not giving everything because I don't have to, and I've also had an eye on the next stage," said Nibali.

However, he admitted it would have been different had the best riders been there.

Reigning champion Chris Froome crashed out on the fifth stage with a broken hand and wrist while two-time former winner Alberto Contador broke his shinbone in a fall on the 10th stage on Bastille Day.

"If Chris Froome or Alberto were riding I would need to push much more but then I would also have to manage the race differently and play more of a waiting game," added the Astana team leader.

"When they attack they are more explosive so I would have to be careful.

"I have a lot of respect for these riders."

Here's a video preview of the stage from Global Cycling Network.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2014

Tour de France stage 17: Pole Rafal Majka wins

Stage 17 of the 2014 Tour de France was won by Rafal Majka on Wednesday after 124.5km punishing ride through the Pyrenees. Yellow jersey holder Vincenzo Nibali extended his lead over his rivals.

Tour de France stage 17: Pole Rafal Majka wins
Stage 17 of the Tour de France will see some tought climbs for the riders. Photo: Screengrab LeTour.fr

Young Pole Rafal Majka climbed to his second mountain stage victory of the Tour de France on Wednesday.

Having already triumphed in the Alps, the Tinkoff-Saxo rider added a Pyrenean stage to his ledger with victory on the 124.5km 17th stage from Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary.

Italian Giovanni Visconti was second with race leader Vincenzo Nibali taking third as he extended his overall advantage to Spaniard Alejandro Valverde to almost 5min 30sec.

The battle for a podium place also took another twist as veteran Jean-Christophe Peraud rolled over the line fourth in the same time as Nibali and closed to just 8sec behind Thibaut Pinot, who retained third overall, but is now exactly six minutes behind the Italian leader.

Majka's victory was his second in five days and Tinkoff-Saxo's third in the last four stages.

The 24-year-old Pole had already triumphed Saturday at the Risoul ski station in the Alps while Australian Michael Rogers won Tuesday's first Pyrenean stage in Bagneres-de-Luchon.

It means the Russian-owned team have gone some way to making up for the loss of leader Alberto Contador to a broken shinbone on Bastille Day.

Majka was part of a large breakaway group that arrived on the final of four tough categorised climbs with 14 riders.

Visconti made a break for home but once Majka set off after him he looked clearly the stronger.

And so it proved as he accelerated away in the final 2km, also doing enough to retain the polkadot king of the mountains jersey that he had taken off Joaquim Rodriguez on Tuesday.

PREVIEW of stage: Tour de France leader Vincenzo Nibali played down suggestions he had finally cracked ahead of Wednesday's fearsome 17th stage in the Pyrenees.

The day before Nibali had been slightly distanced by young French climber Thibaut Pinot as the leaders crested the Port de Bales before a 20km descent to the finish.

Pinot himself said Nibali had let him go because he knew he would catch him on the descent, the Italian being known as the best descender in the peloton while the Frenchman openly admits it's his weakness.

Astana's Nibali said he was more concerned with Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, who is second in the overall standings at 4min 37sec.

"On the climb Movistar pushed it on and the man to control was Valverde because he can also do damage on the descent," said the 29-year-old.

"Pinot sprinted clear at the top but I was getting some sugars on board, it was nothing, I was in control."

Nibali also suggested he had been caught out in the wrong position when Pinot, who moved up to third overall at 5:06 with his strong showing, kicked at the top of the hill.

And he insisted he hadn't overlooked the potential danger Pinot could pose.

"I certainly am not underestimating anyone, I learnt that last year at the Vuelta (a Espana where he lost out to outsider Chris Horner).

"I was the one to close Pinot down in the last kilometre when he attacked and Valverde had left a gap.

"I tried to keep everything under control and I was also thinking about the race in next few days. Many people used a lot of energy and that showed in their legs."

Wednesday's 17th stage is just 124.5km, compared with the 237.5km trek on Tuesday, and includes three first category climbs before the hors category finish to Saint-Lary-Soulan.

Nibali says that will make it much tougher than Tuesday's stage.

"(Tuesday's) was relatively tranquil but then exploded at the end. (Wednesday's) is much shorter but much more intense.

"It could be difficult and maybe many riders used a lot of energy (Tuesday).

"We (Astana) will try to manage things day by day like we've been doing since the second stage. We've done well until now and we'll continue to try to do so."

Pinot may have gained time on the likes of Romain Bardet and Tejay Van Garderen on Tuesday, but he's expecting a reaction on Wednesday.

"It will be a very short and nervous stage and I expect my rivals to attack me," he said.

AG2R have the next two in the standings behind Pinot, Frenchmen Jean-Christophe Peraud, fourth at 1:02 behind Pinot, and Bardet who is fifth another 32sec further back.

But it is Peraud and Van Garderen, who dropped to more than 4min behind Pinot after a dreadful day in the first Pyrenean stage, who most worry Pinot because of their timetrialling capabilities.

"I need to gain more time. I put time into Romain and Van Garderen but I need to get more time on Peraud," said Pinot.

Bardet was the big surprise on Tuesday after looking strong in the Alps.

He cracked on the final climb but said he's hoping to bounce back quickly.

"I lost a battle but there are still two great (Pyrenean) stages to come," he said.

"Maybe (Wednesday) I'll have more freedom on a stage that suits me a lot. I hope to have better legs than (Tuesday)."

SHOW COMMENTS